New Links Added

Catching up on some old business—Our links list has a couple new entries, courtesy of Bobbi and Benjer.

Bobbi recommends the Jack Brothers—a huge proportion of their tunes are downloadable, so you can be pretty familiar with their work before you buy.

Benjer’s link to GEMM was really helpful right now. I discovered recently that my long-awaited copy of King L’s “Great Day for Gravity” wasn’t going to ship, and I found more than one copy at GEMM. As Benjer says, it’s “an exhaustive database for music lovers”—and a great resource for hard–to–find music.

From Bobbi:”My very favorite Jack Brothers cd is “Nivose” and it has two really great songs, “Jattebra” (I think it means “perfection” in Swedish) and “Min Lilla Ros” (words are something like “there was black there was dark there was nothing there was snow … then there was you, my little rose”-but sung to music that makes you want to ride a truck in circles under the desert stars in the middle of the night!) Then most of the songs on “Ventose” are good-they’re mostly in English and they’re the funniest take on the blues! I especially love “Hole In Your Pocket Blues.”There’s also a song on “Germinal” called “Under Finspangs Boar” that I love-I love it because as they’re singing it they switch back and forth between major and minor chords (vocally) which kind of tweaks your emotions-cyclical responses.

Rodeo Clown Fairytale

With a name like G Love and Special Sauce, you don’t exactly expect folk music. Leaning closer to hip-hop than Beck-like slacker rap, they seem to know what they’re doing, but it’s just not my cup of tea. As sometimes happens, a talented performer reacts to the catalyst of another writer’s music, and something special happens. In the case of G Love’s “Rodeo Clowns” the other writer is Mr. “Brushfire Fairytales”, Jack Johnson.

G Love’s handling of “Best of G Love and Special SauceRodeo Clowns” is definitely not pure Jack Johnson; his “Flake”, “Mudfootball”, and the other tracks on “Jack Johnson's 'Brushfire Fairytale'Brushfire Fairytale” are closer to blues than modern R&B and its derivatives. This version makes good use of multiple acoustic guitars, including one played by the writer in a solo sounding a lot like Willie Nelson doing his usual fierce attack on every individual note. Just to make sure we don’t forget who’s performing, there’s a huge bass and drum rhythym; not overdone, but not subtle.

Catchy music was never hurt by snappy lyrics. Johnson’s snap. Revealing the often thin line between the ‘losers’ on the street, and the ‘winners’ looking down on them, the song opens with a look at the hedonistic crowd in a disco, poking fun at their shallowness, but the closing verse alters the perspective, contrasting shallowness with hopelessness:

 Lights out Shut down Late night Wet ground You walk by, look at him but he can't look at you yeah You might feel pity but he only feels the ground because You understand moods but he only knows let down by the corner there's another one, Reaching out a hand coming from a broken man; well, You try to live but he's done tryin' Not dead, but definitely dying.

No judgments drawn; just a slice-of-life snapshot of two groups which, at times, aren’t so very different.

Parting Glass for a Fisherman

A lottery winner dies of the shock of winning, and, in a dream, tells his friends to collect the winnings and divide them among all 52 residents of the village. Along the way, we meet a romantic pig farmer and his olfactory-sensitive love interest; a boy who may or may not be his; the witch, the fiddle, and a flying phone box; nearly all the colorful characters who inhabit the quaint Irish village of Tullymore. Along the way, we hear marvelous Irish music, old and new, and in one brief scene, a rarely heard verse from one of the best Irish songs ever recorded.

Waking Ned DivineWaking Ned Divine” isn’t for everyone; the humor is subtle, the accents are thick, and the climax of the story bizarre. I love the movie, but for those who might not, the music transcends the story line (and is available on CD so you don’t have to watch at all.)

The star of the soundtrack is “Fisherman’s Blues” by The Waterboys. I still remember the moment, driving up the Silver Strand to cross the Coronado Bay Bridge to San Diego, that I heard the opening guitar strums, the fiddle joining, then the whole band: drums, mandolin, bass, settling back down into a deceptively simple folk tune about yearning for a simpler life away from the complications of modern things. Steve Wickham’s fiddle is irresistible, and Mike Scott’s singing as ardent as ever.

 I wish I was a fisherman tumbling on the sea, far away from dry land and its bitter memories. Casting out my sweet line with abandonment and love, no ceiling bearing down on me save the starry sky above; with light in my head and you in my arms.

One quibble with the credits on the soundtrack: Shaun Davey, brilliant Irish composer that he is, was only 11 years old the first time the Clancy Brothers recorded “Parting Glass” in 1959, and I’ll bet with digging I could find earlier recordings of it. It seems unlikely, then, that it was written by Davey, as is credited on the album.The final verse holds out hope:

 I know I will be loosened from the bonds that hold me fast; that the chains all hung around me will fall away at last and on that fine and fateful day I will take me in my hands I will ride on the train I will be the fisherman with light in my head and you in my arms

Light in my head, you in my arms—there’s a dream worth chasing.

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem In Person At Carnegie HallOne of the first recordings I ever heard was the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem recorded live at Carnegie Hall in 1962. They closed the concert with what is my favorite version of a great Irish song, “The Parting Glass.” Sung in two different places in “Waking Ned Divine”, it’s the farewell of a dying man.

While the closing scene of “Ned Divine” uses the song in the traditional way, to pay respects to a comrade who has passed, in the middle of the movie, Finn the pig farmer sings the middle verse, which I’ve never heard before:

 If I had money enough to spend, and leisure time to sit awhile. There is a fair maid in this town, that surely has my heart beguiled. Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips, I own, she has my heart in thrall; Then fill to me the parting glass, Good night and joy be with you all.

Taken on its own, out of the context of the lament, it makes a good love song, which is how Finn sings it, loudly, in the middle of main street as he makes his way home from the pub. You’ll have to watch the movie to see whether his dream

Getting Jiggy the Celtic Way

LLúnasa's 'Lúnasa'únasa — another reason for that Irish/English dictionary. I don’t know if it can be translated, but I know what it means: three albums worth of great Irish music. Well, I’m taking the third on faith; I only have their self–titled debut, and the follow–up, “Otherworld.” Both are fantastic, though, and I’ll be surprised if “The Merry Sisters of Fate” is any less.

Lúnasa's 'Otherworld'Lúnasa plays almost traditional Celtic music. Along the way, they manage to give it a spin and a nudge, and suddenly, it’s sounding extremely modern without losing its venerable age. This is a natural evolution of a living art form, and it’s marvelous to see. Fiddles and whistles and flutes and bass, one minute sounding O so traditional; the next, sounding like the intro to the latest U2 single. The band is purely acoustic, and technically there’s really nothing ‘rock’ about them, but there’s a currency in the performances which is more than just the youthful vigor elementary to Celtic music.

Lúnasa's 'The Merry Sisters of Fate'Their website is a mixture of information and fun, and is well worth browsing. As are, of course, the albums. My special favorite: “Laura Lynn Cunningham” from “Otherworld” — first, a mournful flute, all alone, then joined by others. Finally, when the song is more than half over, the fiddle and guitars take over, dispelling the pensive mood with a finish bright and cheerful as their album covers.

Tahitian Skies

INeck and Neck‘ve been listening to “Rare Django” the last few days and wishing I knew more than five words of French. Nearly every song with vocals is in French, recorded during the master’s early days with various jazz singers in his home country. Years ago, when I first discovered this masterpiece, a friend offered to translate the songs for me. Since she spoke French (though with a decided Tahitian accent) and loved jazz it was a good deal for both of us.

Thinking about the translations in the desk drawer reminds me of things Tahitian; not that I’ve been there in body, but I go often in spirit. One simple method is a track from a truly memorable and evocative album by two guitar giants.

'Chester and Lester' and 'Guitar Monsters'Twelve years ago, senior statesman and brilliant guitarist Chet Atkins teamed up with my favorite living guitarist, Dire Straits founder Mark Knopfler, and played a bunch of songs they liked. It was reminiscent of a couple albums recorded a long, long time ago, by Chet and a friend named Les Paul. All three recordings, “Chester and Lester” and “Guitar Monsters” with Les (combined into one CD), and the album I mentioned above, “Neck and Neck” with Knopfler, were recorded essentially live, as if the band had dropped by your living room to visit. They chat during the songs, they show off for each other; everyone is clearly having a marvelous time. It reminds me of Saturday night when I was a kid, and neighbors or uncles or anyone would come over with their guitars and such, and play and sing until long after us kids fell asleep on the great big couch in the living room.

Another Country“Tahitian Skies”, the eighth track on “Neck and Neck”, is a sweet melody which transports me to pleasant places. Written by country guitarist Ray Flacke, I first heard it on the Chieftan’s “Another Country” which is another fine alt country album. The “Neck and Neck” version is smoother, more polished; not better, just different. This is a soothing piece, treated gently by two musicians with style and grace.

Great Days of My Youth

One of my earliest memories (I have many vivid memories from before I learned to read at the age of 4, so earliest is really, really, early) is my absolute acceptance of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem singing in Gaelic to an audience at Carnegie Hall. Not that I had any clue who Carnegie was, or where his hall was, but it never occurred to me to wonder why I couldn’t understand a single word of the song “Oro Se Do Bheathe Bhaile.” After I learned to read, I was slightly puzzled that they pronounced it “Oro shay doe vaha wallya” but it was the only line I could figure out, and I sang it loud.

Statistics show that Gaelic is steadily making a comeback in Ireland. From the late 19th century until WWII, fewer than one in five residents of the Emerald Isle spoke Gaelic; nearing the end of the 20th century, over twice that many professed an ability to speak it. I’m considering doing my part by moving there and learning the language myself. Eventually. It would be heartbreaking to think of losing something as melodic and moving as the sound of such a glorious tongue.

Languages fascinate me; one of the strong appeals of Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings” was his masterful ability, not just with English, but with fully formed languages he created himself. I’m also enthralled when a song to which I cannot understand the words still manages to convey enormous depth of feeling, merely by using the right music and the singer’s ability to emote.

One of the lesser known tracks from Enya‘s pseudo

Before the Gravel Road

Allison loaned me her copy of “Lucinda Williams' eponymous albumLucinda Williams” a few weeks ago. She casually mentioned that she and Lucinda used to play together as children. I’m still waiting for a photo good enough to post, but even in the copy her dad faxed to her, it’s pretty obvious which one of the group is Allison, and which one’s Cindy.

It’s also pretty obvious when the one singing is Lucinda Williams. Her last two albums, “Lucinda Williams' 'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” and “Lucinda Williams' 'Essence'Essence” are both award winners. Her third album, eponymously entitled, is just as much a winner, despite academia’s failure to recognize it officially.

If you’ve only heard Lucinda on the radio, you probably think of her as a blues singer. “Can’t Let Go” got plenty of air time, and deservedly so. Lucinda is a blues singer, and a good one. But she’s also that incredibly rare phenomenon: a country artist I actually enjoy.

After her first two albums, “Lucinda Williams' 'Ramblin'Ramblin’“, recorded in a single afternoon in 1979, and 1980’s “Lucinda Williams' 'Happy Woman Blues'Happy Woman Blues” Lucinda waited nearly a decade to come up with the album bearing her name. In fact, the shortest hiatus after that initial frenzy was the three years between “Car Wheels” and “Essence”, released last year. From a purely chronological perspective, she appears to be a careful artist. Her recordings don’t suggest anything less.

Mixing country ballads, alt

Can’t Wait for ‘Everything Waits’

I‘ve long been a fan of Art Garfunkel, and I think his new album with Maia Sharp and Buddy Mondlock is going to be a real treat. With apologies to his fans, I’m not familiar with Mondlock’s work, but with Garfunkel’s voice and arranging abilities, and Maia’s voice and sax, I find it difficult to believe that “Everything Waits To Be Noticed” will be anything less than spectacular.

You can listen to “The Thread” from “Everything Waits To Be Noticed” at MP3.com. Maia takes the lead vocal, and it’s delightful. For more background you can read my ravings over Maia’s first album, “Hardly Glamour.”

Blue Moon Over the Sunshine of Your Love

Eric Clapton's 'One More Car, One More Rider'Watched Eric Clapton’s “One More Car, One More Rider” concert yesterday. Some of the classics have transmogrified into arrangements I’m not excited about, but watching the man perform with Billy Preston was a hoot. My second son, Brendan, thinks
Cream's 'Disraeli Gears'
Preston and fellow keyboardist David Sanchez were the hits of the show, though he acknowledges EC’s abilities, of course.

One tiny bit stopped me in my tracks: in the Cream tune “Sunshine of Your Love”, Clapton began his solo with something that wasn’t quite from the original — two bars from “Blue Moon.”

Don’t ask me how it fit, but it did.

Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For? (2)

Search review time again:

  • ‘hendrix’—Only mention so far is “The Watchtower, All Along
  • ‘white potatoes’—This led me to the PBS special “The Irish in America” which I’ve seen twice. I don’t remember this tune, and I’ll have to track it down. If you get the opportunity, this is a must-see. In the meantime, more info at PBS’s site, including some of the words to “White Potatoes” in various audio formats. If you’ve never heard Gaelic spoken, give it a listen; it’s one of the most mysterious, evocative, and romantic languages on earth.
  • ‘white sandy beach’, ‘israel kamakawiwo ole’ and ‘bruddah iz’—Hopefully you found “Finding Iz
  • blank query—Gotta write some form validation to prevent this. If you’re searching for nothing, you won’t find it here. I think.
  • ‘allison krause’—Forget About It. No, I mean, that’s the only Alison Krauss I’ve written.
  • ‘and the morning sun has yet to climb my hood ornament’—The only mention of Neil Young’s “Roll Another Number” is in the little quotes under the KnowYourMusic logo which change every time you load a page. Randomly chosen from my mental stockpile, they’re links to a little more information.
  • ‘david gray’—This should have returned a flood of possibilities, with more on the way. It’s no secret to regular readers (or anyone within earshot of me) that David Gray is one of my all

Link Death

Link rot is a web phenomenon whereby links from one site to others begin to fail over time due to changes in the target sites.

I’m about to introduce link assassination. Since I have to remove all my CDNow links, but haven’t had time to get all the Amazon.com links, I’m going to just kill them until I have the time.

So, if you read back through older articles (anything prior to the first of December) the links are about to unceremoniously cease to function. I’ll do what I can to get them replaced quickly. In the meantime, you can find everything you need at Amazon.com, which is where we’ll be buying our music from now on, right?